I actually finished this last night. The thing is, I’ve come face to face with a serious dilemma. School Rumble was a lot of fun to read. The enjoyment I had with reading it shines in comparison to most titles I’ve read thus far. It has a certain charm to it, where one could be willing to forgive its shortcomings because of how subjectively pleasing it is. It feels like a genuine creation of love and effort. It pulled out all the stops and made sure to stay the same at its core; to provide as an entertaining piece of fiction.
On the contrary, it’s also fucking stupid.
It’s interesting to think about how far a person is willing to go for love. It’s also interesting to think about why someone falls in love in the first place. Love seems to be the driving force behind many changes in a person, however big or small. At times, there is no logic behind it. One can fall in love with another for no reason other than they just enjoy being around the person. It’s this subjectivity about love and other strong emotions that make trying to piece together the logic behind School Rumble so tricky.
Tenma (pictured above with the bill) is in love with Karasuma, a boy who is calm, unattached, emotionless, expressionless, and perfect at everything. That has to be a joke, right? That’s poking fun at girls in anime/manga swooning over male characters with no personality, right? I thought this for a while, until the ending proved me wrong. Oh, so wrong. This begs the question; why? Why is Tenma in love with this boring guy? She never mentioned anything about his outer appearance, as he’s not exactly the most attractive bishie in the park. In fact, she never really mentions anything about him that really stands out. Where’s the appeal? Where’s the foundation of love come from? Once again, love is typically subjective. Trying to apply logic to it is hazardous.
What I can do logically is measure the amount of love someone has for another, and what they’re willing to go through to embellish that feeling. Tenma knows next to nothing about Karasuma. Throughout the course of a year, up until the very end of the manga, Karasuma tells Tenma next to nothing about himself or why he should be anything more than a background character. By the way, I don’t like Karasuma. Or Tenma. Despite this, Tenma still finds herself undeniably in love with him, her feelings stronger than the tides of Niagara Falls. Logically, it makes no sense that she would continue this pursuit of love, but that would go against Tenma’s character trait: blind ambition.
Tenma is an airhead. She’s cheery all the time and finds the good in any situation. She’s cute in the sense that she acts like a child in a world where maturity and restraint is almost a necessity. Because of this trait (I think), she draws the attention of the world around her, feeling obligated to help her in any way they can.
I hate her.
One who doesn’t hate her is Harima, the most bizarre-looking male protagonist I have ever seen. He is in love with Tenma, because why not? All of the romantic interests and strings that arise in this manga all seem underdeveloped. His development throughout the manga is what makes him one of the more likable characters in School Rumble. However, his development fluctuates depending on the situation. In the beginning, he’s stupid. As it continues, he becomes more fleshed out. At some spots, he’s an idiot yet again. He’s a very polarizing character. I actually found him much more enjoyable when he wasn’t swooning over Tenma. It may just be the issue I have with the romance in this series.
A big issue with this manga is the misunderstandings. This manga thrives off of misunderstandings. It drives the comedy, the drama, the tension, everything. It always drives the romance, which pisses me off. It makes the romance feel fake. Hollow. Due to these misunderstandings, characters believe they’re in love with others for all the wrong reasons. Now, this would be excusable if these developed feelings would make a character more relatable or grow as a person. They usually don’t. It’s to show teenagers in love because that’s what they thrive on. Love, love, and the promise of love. A one-track mind. It’s even worse when a character goes overboard and behaves out of character for the sake of a pursuit of a fake romantic relationship. You know the trainwreck is coming. You still can’t look away. In the end, you’re sad. Wasn’t it fun to watch, though?
Note that I use the term “usually” when describing the amount of growth these misunderstandings give the characters. There is one character who showed growth through the use of misunderstandings, excluding Harima, as his growth fluctuated. That character is Eri, the blonde, half-Japanese, rich friend to Tenma and her group of comrades. Her base personality shows her to be cold and calculating. A woman with beautiful looks, but an icy heart. She scoffs at the idea of romance driving people to do absurd things, favoring logical and planned approaches to all of life’s problems. She does things that benefit herself first, but is still grounded enough to see the value in friendship and the good points in people.
Gee, I wonder why she appeals to me so much?
She’s my fetish.
It seems as if Eri was a character chosen to be given some insight throughout the story. She appears in a majority of plotlines during the second half of the manga’s run, and it focuses on her inner feelings throughout the misunderstandings she’s placed in. No other character other than Harima gets this kind of treatment. It almost seems like Harima and Eri are the two major characters. They just… take breaks in between. With as big of a cast as School Rumble has (at least twenty characters), some people have to be set to the side. I didn’t expect over half of the cast to be set aside.
To recap, School Rumble is messy, favors certain characters, impressively illogical, focuses far too much on misunderstandings, and lacks in overall character development. Next, let’s talk about art. It’s fine. It helped the humor of the story, which wasn’t funny (another negative point), but it assisted in not making it cringeworthy. In comparison, School Rumble is funnier than most, but nowhere near as funny as some make it out to be. I particularly liked the character designs, despite how lacking in distinguishable characteristics they were (many characters looked the same). It suited the situations well. I have no major complaints with the art. Even in dramatic situations, Eri still looked breath-taking…. Oh, and everyone else, too. Yeah.
It was fun. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed reading this manga tremendously. It was just so stupid, so messy. I can’t forgive its misfortunes and clumsy writing. I can’t forgive its lack of attention to detail. I certainly can’t forgive its ending. Oh, absolutely not. It’s just devoid of logic, save a few characters. In fact, when more obscure characters were present, I loathed reading this. I only cared about a few characters. If they weren’t shown, I lost close to all interest in continuing. With as may characters as School Rumble has, one can realize how much of a struggle that was for me.
Personal Score: B-
Critical Score: C-